A DATE with the Derryfield boys’ lacrosse team is circled on every calendar in Division III. The Cougars wouldn’t want it any other way.
The defending Division III champion, Derryfield is 14-0 with two games remaining. The Cougars have locked up the top seed for the tournament despite spending the entire season as the team everyone is gunning for.
“We’ve sort of embraced it,” said head coach Chris Hettler. “Coming from where we came from in 2007 where we won two games, we love it now that we’re the team that everyone wants to beat. We’ve said for a long time that we wanted to be the Bishop Guertin of Division III. We want to be the Bedford of Division III.”
The players have taken to the idea of being on everyone’s hit list.
“Before big games (coach) tells us we have a target on our back and we’ve had a target on our back since my freshman year,” said senior captain Grant Alenson. “I haven’t known Derryfield lacrosse when we haven’t had a target on our back. It’s the way we play and the way we approach games. We don’t take any games off because everybody is going to give us their best game. We have to recognize that and respect every team.”
Hettler has been at the helm since it was a club team in 2002. A four-year letterman as a goaltender at Colgate University, Hettler went on to play four seasons of Major League Lacrosse with the Boston Cannons.
According to Hettler, the key for Derryfield this season has been depth.
“We’ve got a great senior class but we’ve also got a lot of underclassmen stepping up. I think it’s balance,” he said. “If you look at our box scores, we’re scoring 20 goals a game but a lot of teams when they do it, they have one or two guys that are filling up the net. We’re consistently putting eight, 10, 12 guys in the scorebook every single game.”
Hettler said he leans on his experienced players to carry a leadership load.“There are a lot of guys that feel very comfortable. They’ve been in the system a long time,” Hettler said. “We’ve got some great captains. Grant Alenson, Griffin Phaneuf on offense, Max Anderson and John Lencki on defense. They prepare the underclassmen on the roles they need to fill and what to expect. We’ve been to the final four every year and we’ve won a state championship so these guys know how to prepare.”
The Cougars also get a good push from the Derryfield girls’ squad, last year’s Division III runners-up to Windham and in first place at 12-0.
“It’s a friendly competition. The girls have a great shot this year,” Alenson said. “The nature between the teams, it’s definitely competitive but it’s a healthy competition. We push each other.”
The Derryfield boys took down one of the best teams in Division III on Tuesday with a 14-5 win over Hollis-Brookline (10-1). The biggest challenger for dethroning the Cougars will likely come from Plymouth (11-0).
But that meeting would have to be in the playoffs since the teams do not meet in the regular season.
And of course, the Cougars would welcome the challenge as they have all year.Logjam in girls’ Division II: As the final two weeks of the regular season loom there are some tight races in all six lacrosse divisions.
But most have a clear-cut top team or team with the rest jockeying for position.
Not so in girls’ DII, where the battle at the top is a five-team free-for-all.
Entering play on Wednesday, the top of the DII table read: Hanover (11-2), Windham (10-2), Bedford (10-2), Bishop Guertin (10-3) and Winnacunnet of Hampton (8-2). Key games still to be played include Hanover at Bedford Saturday, BG at Hanover on Tuesday and Windham at Hanover May 30.
Ian Clark covers high school lacrosse for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.